Bringing up father! My first steps into being a dad.
Looking back now, I should have known, the day we found out we were pregnant was a sign of how life was going to be from then on - an amalgamation of, unbridled joy, a form of anxiety I’d never felt before and of course uncertainty!
I was packing for a three-week trip to Germany, when Anjali, with tears streaming down her cheek, handed me that pregnancy test with two bright positive red lines. I was to leave that evening and all both of us wanted was some form of confirmation. We rushed to the closest path lab for a blood test and on the way bought several more home pregnancy tests of various brands – all of which came back positive! And that was that, with no more information I took off on my travels, leaving Anjali to prepare physically and mentally for what was going to be our next major milestone as a family!
The rest of the pregnancy was a breeze, Anjali was in good spirits and health, barring of course the usual bouts of fatigue towards the end. Dexter (our Labrador and now furbling to Ananya) and I busied ourselves in reading up about babies and keeping Anjali happy. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat and looking at those little stubby limbuds (a medical term for early limb development in foetuses, which soon became the base of many a private jokes between us) during the ultrasounds and later feeling the little munchkin kick/ hiccup away, were some of the highlights.
Excited friends and family called in often with advice galore – right from what Anjali should be eating, wearing, doing to what I as her partner should be. Get lots of sleep, spend lots of time together, watch lots of movies they said, but nothing and I mean nothing really prepared us for what was to come! We didn’t know the sex of our little baby then, but Anjali had a strong instinct it would be a girl and I secretly wished for one myself too, but at that time she was just our little nubbin and we couldn’t wait to see her.
With over a month to go before her arrival, I had just wrapped up my project for the baby nursery of painting a mural of colourful animals on one wall. We had just begun making lists of things we’d need for the baby and were far from ready. But our little nubbin seemed to have plans of her own. We should have known then she wasn’t going to take much lying down!! Yes, she was ready to make her presence and once again sent all of us into a right tizzy! I was nowhere close to handing over at work as I had planned, to be able to take some time off and switch off after the delivery. And yet, just as she does today, she called for my attention and I couldn’t help but drop it all.
It was a hard day and night for both of us and probably the most anxious and out of control I have ever felt. While Anjali laboured on (quite literally) I managed to catch a few winks early on only to be startled awake soon later. It was time for what I had been waiting for all those months. Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in the delivery room but I had had months to psych myself and mentally prepare myself. But when the time to usher our little wonder into the world came, there was no other place Id rather have been than right by Anjali’s side holding her hand and cradling our beautiful baby girl in the other. The feeling of walking out of the room to present our baby to our friends and family outside was beyond exhilarating.
None of us got much sleep or rest in the days after, while Ananya decided to test us a few times with a few health issues and feeding troubles. It was an emotionally and physically difficult healing process for Anjali, battling a mild form of postpartum depression and complete exhaustion. Again I felt out of depth with the situation at hand and struggled to balance work with being there for my precious girls and of course our boy, Dexter dog. I did the best I could, riddled with self-doubt and fear of hurting that little beautiful being we had made.
Soon we were back home and together and while the sleepless nights continued for months after, the emotions were less fraught and we started enjoying our little bundle of joy. We cheered at all the milestones, ensured we recorded every minute of the time we spent with her – some firmly placed in our memory with others on our phones and cameras, worried at the little colds and fevers, stressed over piercing her little ears (a trauma I still live with!), wondered at how she grew and how fast time was flying!
Today my little girl is an energetic, full of life, chatterbox of a toddler. We go for long walks together, enjoy our time in the park, spend hours with her new set of building blocks and most recently are exploring the joys of swimming in the hot summer and gorging on grapes. I relive my childhood through her and cannot ask for a better stress-buster when I get home from a hard day at work.
I do wish I could spend more time with her and contribute better to all the difficult things Anjali deals with through the day, like toilet training and temper tantrums. But, Fatherhood has been a life-changing experience and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else.